Show ContentsRathbun History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The name Rathbun originated with the Anglo-Saxon tribes that once ruled Britain. It is derived from the baptismal name Rawbone. Patronymic surnames arose out of the vernacular and religious given name traditions. The vernacular or regional naming tradition is the oldest and most pervasive type of patronymic surname. According to this custom, names were originally composed of vocabulary elements from the local language. Vernacular names that were derived from ancient Germanic personal names have cognates in most European languages.

Early Origins of the Rathbun family

The surname Rathbun was first found in Worcestershire where Richard Rathebon was listed in the Subsidy Rolls of 1275. However, Cheshire was a focal point for the family as numerous entries were found there from the 14th century on. John Rathebon was listed there in 1347 [1] and one source notes the name was in: "Cheshire records as Rathebon, does not seem to be English. If the original bearers of the name came from Ireland it answers to the Irish Rathbane, Rathbaun = 'White Fort' [Irish rath, a fort; also palace + bán, white]. If from Wales (as seems more likely), the name prob. means the 'Stumpy Clearing or Plain' [Welsh rhath, a cleared spot, plain (conn. with Irish rath) + Welsh bon, a stock, stump, stem (conn. with Irish and Gaelic bonn, a foundation, base] and is apparently allied to 'Ratisbon.' " [2]

Another source has a slightly different understanding: "this surname is derived from a geographical locality. 'of Ruabon'. There seems little doubt that these surnames hail from Cheshire, also that Ruabon is the parent. The change to Rathbone is peculiar, but perhaps the place-name Ruabon has undergone a change. I furnish an instance of Rawbone from the Prestbury registers (Cheshire) dated 1603. A Thomas Rathbone was living there in 1695." [3]

"There were Rathbones in Prestbury, [Cheshire] 200 years ago. Richard Rathbone was mayor of Chester in 1598, and Thomas Rathbone was sheriff of that city in 1790." [4]

Early History of the Rathbun family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Rathbun research. Another 98 words (7 lines of text) covering the years 1750, 1696, 1746, 1748, 1831, 1748, 1763, 1770, 1773, 1780, 1750, 1807, 1750, 1757, 1809, 1726, 1789, 1757, 1746, 1792 and 1809 are included under the topic Early Rathbun History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Rathbun Spelling Variations

One relatively recent invention that did much to standardize English spelling was the printing press. However, before its invention even the most literate people recorded their names according to sound rather than spelling. The spelling variations under which the name Rathbun has appeared include Rathbone, Rawbone, Rathburn and others.

Early Notables of the Rathbun family (pre 1700)

Distinguished members of the family include William Rathbone II (1696-1746), founder of Rathbone Brothers, in Liverpool a timber business that grew to be one of the United Kingdom's largest firms of wealth managers, thus beginning a long running family of Liverpool merchants and shipowners with a long history of philanthropy and public service. Wilson Rathborne (1748-1831), captain in the navy, son of Richard Rathborne, a clergyman, was born near Loughrea, co. Galway, on 16 July 1748. In September 1763 he was entered as an ‘able seaman’ on board the Niger, with Sir Thomas Adams, on the Newfoundland station. As able seaman and...
Another 268 words (19 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Rathbun Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Rathbun Ranking

In the United States, the name Rathbun is the 6,841st most popular surname with an estimated 4,974 people with that name. [5]

United States Rathbun migration to the United States +

At this time, the shores of the New World beckoned many English families that felt that the social climate in England was oppressive and lacked opportunity for change. Thousands left England at great expense in ships that were overcrowded and full of disease. A great portion of these settlers never survived the journey and even a greater number arrived sick, starving, and without a penny. The survivors, however, were often greeted with greater opportunity than they could have experienced back home. These English settlers made significant contributions to those colonies that would eventually become the United States and Canada. An examination of early immigration records and passenger ship lists revealed that people bearing the name Rathbun arrived in North America very early:

Rathbun Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • Richard Rathbun, who arrived in Massachusetts in 1628 [6]
Rathbun Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Edward W. Rathbun, aged 50, who immigrated to America, in 1893
  • Emily Rathbun, aged 42, who immigrated to the United States, in 1896
Rathbun Settlers in United States in the 20th Century
  • Mr. Fr. J. Rathbun, aged 26, who settled in America, in 1904
  • Adah Rathbun, aged 32, who landed in America, in 1905
  • Charles S. Rathbun, aged 40, who immigrated to the United States, in 1907
  • Helen Rathbun, who landed in America, in 1908
  • Jessie Rathbun, aged 23, who settled in America, in 1910
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Contemporary Notables of the name Rathbun (post 1700) +

  • George Oscar Rathbun (1802-1870), American politician, U.S. Representative from New York
  • Richard Rathbun (1852-1918), American biologist and administrator at the Smithsonian Institution
  • William Kent Rathbun (b. 1961), American Beard Award-nominated chef and restaurateur
  • Mark C. "Marty" Rathbun, American former senior executive of the Church of Scientology
  • Bob Rathbun (b. 1954), American sportscaster and professional speaker
  • Kevin Rathbun (b. 1961), American chef, owner of Rathbun's which has received “Best New Restaurant 2004”, Esquire Magazine; “Best New Restaurant” and "Restaurant of the Year", Atlanta magazine and “Best New Restaurant” by Creative Loafing
  • Mary Rathbun (1860-1943), American marine biologist at the Smithsonian Institution from 1884 until her death
  • John Peek Rathbun (1746-1782), American officer in the Continental Navy and in the United States Navy, eponym of two ships named USS Rathburne

The Rathbun Motto +

The motto was originally a war cry or slogan. Mottoes first began to be shown with arms in the 14th and 15th centuries, but were not in general use until the 17th century. Thus the oldest coats of arms generally do not include a motto. Mottoes seldom form part of the grant of arms: Under most heraldic authorities, a motto is an optional component of the coat of arms, and can be added to or changed at will; many families have chosen not to display a motto.

Motto: Suaviter et Fortiter
Motto Translation: Mildly and firmly.

Suggested Readings for the name Rathbun +

  • A Partial History of Certain Mastin-Rathbun-Dye Families by Victor E.Mastin.

  1. Reaney, P.H and R.M. Wilson, A Dictionary of English Surnames. London: Routledge, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-415-05737-X)
  2. Harrison, Henry, Surnames of the United Kingdom: A Concise Etymological Dictionary Baltimore: Geneological Publishing Company, 2013. Print
  3. Bardsley, C.W, A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames: With Special American Instances. Wiltshire: Heraldry Today, 1901. Print. (ISBN 0-900455-44-6)
  4. Guppy, Henry Brougham, Homes of Family Names in Great Britain. 1890. Print.
  5. "What are the 5,000 Most Common Last Names in the U.S.?".,
  6. Filby, P. William, Meyer, Mary K., Passenger and immigration lists index : a guide to published arrival records of about 500,000 passengers who came to the United States and Canada in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. 1982-1985 Cumulated Supplements in Four Volumes Detroit, Mich. : Gale Research Co., 1985, Print (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8) on Facebook